NEW YORK -- Donald Trump promised to "take the brand of the United States and make it great again," as he announced a 2016 bid for the presidency on Tuesday morning in New York City, making good on nearly 30 years of hinting at a possible White House run.
“Our country needs a truly great leader, and we need a great leader now," Trump said. “We also need a cheerleader.” The real estate mogul and reality star admitted that he thought President Obama could have been a good cheerleader for the nation when he was elected in 2008, but failed to lead.
“Our country is in serious trouble, we don’t have victories anymore," Trump said to a raucous crowd while detailing what he considers America's diminished standing compared to nations like China. "I beat China all the time," he added.
He opened his remarks by taking shots at the current 2016 GOP field. "How are they going to beat ISIS?" he asked rhetorically. Trump spent a lot of time discussing foreign policy and America's international reputation. "The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems," Trump said, singling out Mexico in particular for criticism.
"When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best, they’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they are bringing those problems with us. They are bringing drugs and they are bringing crime, they’re rapists,” he said, while acknowledging, "Some, I assume, are good people."
Trump also argued that the economic recovery is not as robust as had been reported. "Don't believe that 5.6% [rate]," he said. According to Trump, the real unemployment rate is "anywhere from 18-19 and maybe even 21%.”
In addition to promising to repeal Obamacare, Trump pledged to "make America great again." Following his campaign announcement, the Democratic National Committee said in a tongue-in-cheek statement, "he adds some much-needed seriousness that has previously been lacking from the GOP field."
Despite his statement that he is "officially running" for president, Trump has not filed formal paperwork with the Federal Election Commission. However, a spokesperson for his campaign said he will file "within the allowed period."
Days before his announcement, Trump told msnbc he thought "people will be very happy — some will be very surprised,” by his decision. Trump — who famously questioned the president’s citizenship in a larger effort that led Obama to release his birth certificate in 2011 — is widely seen as a political sideshow and a long-shot candidate at best.
Still, Trump's celebrity and personality are an undeniable force in the crowded Republican field, and his team seems confident that they've got a viable candidate.
“I don’t care what they say, [Trump] taps into the angst, if not the anger, of the American people that this stuff is unacceptable, this is not the way it’s supposed to be,” key Iowa aide Chuck Launder told msnbc recently. “If they want to call it a sideshow they can call it that all the way into the fall of 2016."
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Laudner said events he's planned in Iowa are attracting hundreds — the "usual suspects," as well as people the longtime Iowa operative has never seen. "That's what makes a record crowd," he said, adding that their two recent events brought just such "record-breaking" crowds.
It's not just his celebrity that will likely aid his campaign: Trump will likely be the wealthiest candidate by far.
In addition to formally announcing his intention to run, Trump's Exploratory Committee released a record of his finances on Tuesday, valuing his assets at $8.7 billion. However, the document is not the federal tax form that candidates traditionally make public. This first-ever look at Trump’s oft-debated finances will surely make headlines outside of political spheres.
When asked whether or not Trump would consider self-funding his campaign, he told reporters: "I'm really rich."
Trump’s name recognition isn’t always helpful: while the real estate mogul has performed well in this early April poll, he led Quinnipiac’s measure of the GOP’s least-liked candidates: 21% of Republicans said they would “definitely would not support” him in the Republican primary. Just 5% said they’d vote for Trump if the election were held today.
Still, Trump told msnbc he’s heartened by the early polling numbers, particularly because “people don’t think I’m running.” Laudner said they expect a strong boost in polling numbers following the announcement.
The businessman has been teasing his candidacy since 1987. Trump’s been a registered Democrat, independent, and Republican. While weighing a third-party run in 2011, he chose not to be affiliated with the GOP; but his team said he rejoined the Republican Party after endorsing Romney.
This time, though, Trump is ready to go all in: He’s hired staff in early voting states and has been on the trail in early voting states like New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina. Following his announcement, Trump headed straight to Iowa for a big rally and then will make a trip to New Hampshire.